The Chinese government’s persecution of the church has risen considerably in recent times. What animates this animosity towards their good and peaceful Christian citizens? At the deepest level, I think it is the war between the Prince of Peace and the prince of darkness, who holds the powers of this world. But this plays out through the particular political and social situation. As China becomes increasingly totalitarian, the presence of people who have a higher loyalty than the state becomes increasingly problematic–no matter what good citizens these people are in other ways.
So it was highlighted the other day that Chinese government officials had entered a church and ordered the removal of the ten commandments. There was a particular commandment that President Xi Jinping found objectionable. Any guesses which one?
The first one, of course. The first and most offensive commandment, “You shall have no other gods before me.” That commandment, the call to render first and foremost allegiance to God Almighty, a tyrant cannot abide.
This is the basic condition of the spiritual war in which we are engaged. The first Christians declared that Jesus Christ, not Caesar, is Lord. Christians today must say the same, and Caesars today will rage against Christ and His people.
But this first commandment is not only offensive to dictators. It carries the same offense on a personal level, and each and every one of us has a dictator in the heart. One of the anthems of American popular culture is ‘it’s my life and I’ll do what I want with it.’ Against the rebelliousness of the human heart stands the divine command, “have no other gods before me.”
Jesus Christ offers hope, freedom from the self-tyranny that ends in emptiness and despair and death. Jesus offers life and restoration. The promise still stands, that “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9, NIV).